TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team is all set for the decisive final round of the FIA World Rally Championship season in Australia following a successful shakedown on Thursday. After a ceremonial start this evening, the rally will begin on Friday: the Toyota Yaris WRC drivers are aiming to secure the manufacturers’ championship for the team, with Ott Tänak also in contention for the drivers’ title.
The shakedown took place on a five-kilometre course north of rally base Coffs Harbour, including sections of road that will form part of the final stage of the rally on Sunday. This gave the teams and drivers a good opportunity to work on car setup, particularly as it was not possible to test in Australia before the event.
All three drivers completed four runs over the shakedown and showed good pace. Tänak finished up second-fastest, with Jari-Matti Latvala seventh and Esapekka Lappi eighth. Only 1.2 seconds covered the top eight drivers.
Tom Fowler (Chief Engineer)
“As usual in shakedown, we did some systems checks, which are particularly important on a long-haul event like this, as we have to somewhat disassemble the cars to get them out to Australia. We had good times from our drivers, but it was so close that you can’t take too much from them. We have had some really good improvements in performance on gravel over recent rallies, and we have used the data we have from that to develop a setup that is representative to this rally. The feedback from shakedown was that this is working well. The main consideration now is what the weather is going to do – as there is a threat of unsettled conditions – and how that will affect our tactics and tyre choices.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Driver car 7)
“It was a good shakedown in general. I was very happy with the feeling from the car on the first run. Then we played with some settings and on the final run I think the setup was good. I just made a mistake on one hairpin so I lost some time there, but I know that the car is good. I like this event. The characteristics are different on each day but the stages are nice. They are more demanding this year because most of them are run in the opposite direction, so they are not so familiar, and rain could add to the challenge too.”
Ott Tänak (Driver car 8)
“Shakedown was good. It was very representative of the rally: we have a couple of stages that will use some of the same roads. So it was nice for learning something about the car and to confirm a few things. We made a couple of changes just to see what happened but overall we had a good feeling. It’s always great to be here with the nice sunny weather, but this year it looks like we could also have some rain showers to mix things up a bit. It’s changing so much that it’s difficult to predict what’s coming, but we we know there is a lot at stake and we have a big job to do.”
Esapekka Lappi (Driver car 9)
“The grip level on the shakedown was surprisingly high for everybody, I think. We have a lot of stages in that area during the weekend and they should be good fun to drive. Everything was working well on the car. We tried some small adjustments but these didn’t work, so we’ll just go back to what we had before. The weather could play a big role during the weekend: I had a taste of wet conditions last year and these roads get so slippery that it’s hard for the drivers to be in control.”
Friday is focused mainly to the north near Woolgoolga, with the Orara East, Coldwater and Sherwood stages all to be run twice either side of a midday service. The day will end with two passes of the Destination NSW super special on the Coffs Harbour waterfront.
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